Several years ago, I used hp’s iPAQ PDAs and read books using the included Microsoft Reader. Using the Fictionwise.com web site, I had built up a fair bookshelf.
As I have "converged" my life on the iPhone, a good ebook reader was high on my list of must haves. And now I do! The fine folks at Fictionwise.com have released eReader for the iPhone / iPod touch. Their program is available for most portable devices (Palm OS, Pocket PC / Windows Mobile, Symbian) as well as Mac and Windows PCs which makes their book format (PDB) amazingly portable, too. (Microsoft’s LIT format is a Windows-only thing.)
eReader accepts books as ASCII text files and as PDB. (PDB is Palm database – eReader was on Palm devices first.) The reader supports both "secure" and "unsecure" ebooks (i.e., with or without Digital Rights Management (DRM)).
You have some choices of where to buy ebooks. There is the main Fictionwise.com web site and their mobile device friendly ereader.com web site. Both sites support a bookshelf concept so, unlike iTunes, you can always go back and download your purchase again. Most books are available in various formats but one gottcha is you buy a book in one format only – you can’t convert formats. Lame but welcome to the world of DRM.
The ereader.com web site also allows you to upload "user content" to your bookshelf. I used it to put Cory Doctrow’s new book Content on my bookshelf and then downloaded it to my iPhone.
How’s the user interface? Quite good. The eReader software does a good job of integrating iPhone / iPod touch conventions. It behaves a lot like the iPod player so you don’t have to spend much time learning how to use it.
You manage your bookshelf from your device. Download anything on your bookshelf over the wireless network to add books to you device. Delete books from your device to create space for new books.
Reading books is simple enough. Select a book from you device’s bookshelf and tap to open it. Drag you finger right to left to go to the next page. Drag you finger left to right to go to the previous page. You can navigate by chapters: tap once to get the menu bars. On the lower left is a book icon that takes you to the table of contents. Tap the chapter title and your their. The eReader software lets you read books in portrait or landscape mode (auto-sensing orientation or fixed orientation – your choice). User’s can select font and font-size to make it easy on the eyes. For those who prefer white text on a black background, you can invert the screen.
All in all, eReader is a great addition to the iPhone / iPod touch. The app is free and you can get it through iTunes App Store. iPhone 2.0 software required.